Thursday, 8 December 2011

Love, Hate, Fear and Violence: Writing Intense Scenes

I remember in college when we talked about writing sex scenes in my romance writing class, not many people were able to do it. I was never really sure why, but I know when I try to write them, like when I'm trying to be funny, it just doesn't seem to work. I've been easing myself into the love scenes, and it seems that once you're enthralled with the characters, writing intense scenes is not as hard as it sounds. As an in class assignment it would make sense why it was nearly impossible because the writer doesn't have that same emotional attachment that they do to a full story.

The entrance of a very important character. Especially when you're dealing with someone who was a real person, and who is very important and who people will be waiting to read the interpretation. Not only is it a lot of pressure, but its something that you really want to get right. So I've had the piece of editing with that scene in it a little longer than I would normally keep it because I have to get this right.  But, I know that if I hold onto it for too long I'll end up screwing it over royally.

For me personally, as a writer an intense scene has more payout in terms of the emotional rewards on my end. Yes, there needs to be a connection for the writer in the moment but also when the moment is done, and you look back on it and think 'that's exactly what I wanted to say!', you know that you've hit that right note. I hope when I get to my sex scenes that I'll be comfortable with it, and that initial awkwardness goes by quickly. Because it's there, and every time you write a love scene it's like that first time awkwardness that we've all experienced.
I remember when I wrote my first fight scene, it played out in my head as an absolute bloodbath but when I read it back on paper it was lacking. That's the beauty of a thesaurus and a dictionary, and reading. That's another thing about intense scenes, you can learn A LOT from others. That's why I love Laurell K Hamilton so much!
So, to anyone who is struggling with any kind of intense scene, my best advice is to relax. Once you're comfortable with your characters, it'll come easily. But, for those who have class assignments, you may have to build a background for your characters for the one simple scene to make it memorable.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Book Thoughts: The Lady of Rivers By Philippa Gregory

   So, I'm calling this post 'Book Thoughts' because, frankly, I'm not very good at doing full book reviews, but sometimes I want to say something about books that I've read and I figured 'thoughts' was the best way to explain it. On occasion, if I feel it's necessary, I will write an entire review. Especially about books that are not as well known.

Last night I stayed up late finishing Philippa Gregory's latest addition to her novels about 'The Cousin's War', The Lady of Rivers. The book is about Jacquetta of Luxembourg, mother of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen to Edward IV of England (Elizabeth is the narrator of the first book in the series, The White Queen).
This book was interesting on a variety of levels - it didn't irritate me in some of the ways that the other books in the series have; in earlier books I wasn't pleased with the first person present tense narration, and with The Red Queen I was left wanting to know more. Which is interesting that Gregory was able to weave the story she did when she said in the author's note that there is not a lot of information about Jacquetta, and with the wealth of information about the subjects of the other two books they felt a bit lacking.
The love story between Jacquetta and Richard Woodville, a servant of her first husband and her second husband, was quite remarkable. The passion between the two of them was lovely to read.
I was overwhelmed by how much I liked Margaret of Anjou, one of the 'she wolves' of medieval england and remarkable woman in her own right - but I find this happens with Gregory's books quite a bit. The narrator's story is interesting, but there is always a captivating character that is close to the narrator that knocks your socks off. In this case, it was Margaret of Anjou and Joan of Arc. Margaret took on her husband's country when he essentially lost his mind, roused an army and fought like a true warrior, all to protect the inheritance of her young son. Can't help but respect that.
My favorite part of the book was the parts with Joan of Arc, and the impact that she had on the entire story. I was always curious about the point of view of the people that were around her, what people thought about what happened to her. I think that Jacquetta's sympathizing with her seemed genuine, and I wondered if this was something common. But, this was the real stand out section of the book. All of my irritations with parts of the previous books were redeemed when I read the parts with Joan - Gregory seemed to be in her element, and it was reminiscent of my favorite book by her 'The Queen's Fool'. I'm even going to try to incorporate Joan's sign for the wheel of fortune in my day to day life.

My thought about this book is that if you're a fan of Gregory, it is a must read. If you're interested in a different perspective of The Cousin's War from a key player, it is also worth the read. If you're at all interested in Joan of Arc, it is definitely worth the read. Her part of the story, the impact she had, really makes you think.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Influence of Mary

I wanted to take an opportunity to say something about some of the ideas that influence me.. I always get questions, as most creative people do, that are along the lines of 'where do you get your ideas', so I thought I'd take some time out now to discuss how a particular idea blossomed.
I, as many other people, am an insane lover of historical fiction. Through that, I discovered the Tudor period.
When I'm reading I immediately gravitate to strong female characters - especially those who have survived in a 'man's world' and turned it on their head. So when I started reading about the Tudor period Anne Boleyn was one of my favorites from the beginning, The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory one of the books that nurtured that affection. But as I continued to read on, I learned about the other women of the period that defied order, and a well opened up.
With women like Marguerite of Angoulême, Mary Queen of Scots, Jane Bolyen, and Johanna the Mad, how could a reader not fall in love? It took me some time, and after learning about all these other women I stumbled upon the two Mary's, as I call them.
First, Mary Rose Tudor, Henry VIII sister. Married to the aged King of France and when he died she defied everyone and married her brother's best friend and favorite, Charles Brandon, for love. It's a story for the ages, I must say. The fact that she would even consider pissing off Henry VIII says a LOT about her personality.
Second, and most of all, Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.
Those of us girls who grew up in a broken home can really identify with Mary - cast aside by a father she adored for his new woman, I know it's something that I experienced. When I first heard her story I felt like I'd found a kindred spirit, and even though I might not agree with many of the things she did as Queen there are aspects of her personality I understand. The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory was what started the love, I Am Mary Tudor by Hilda Lewis continued to nurture it.
And so, with Mary in mind, I went out looking for bastard female children of royalty - I wanted to know what happened to them, if they were able to overcome such a label and what went on in their lives. At first, I thought I might write about Mary, and I still might, but that wasn't the story I was meant to write at the time.

Then I stumbled on the myth, legend, whatever you may call it, that Elizabeth Bathory, famed Blood Countess and first female serial killer, had a daughter out of wedlock before she was married.
And, there it was. There was my story. This unnamed, unconfirmed girl was the child of one of the most infamous ladies in history, and she may have never known it.
But, in my mind, she found it in way that most would not expect.

Suggested Historical Fiction, about the Women I named earlier:
Mademoiselle Boleyn By Robin Maxwell
The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn By Robin Maxwell
The Boleyn Inherritance By Philippa Gregory
The Other Queen By Philippa Gregory
The Last Queen By C.W Gortner
I, Elizabeth By Rosalind Miles
Mary, Queen of France by Jean Plaidy

I know a lot of people have things to say about Philippa Gregory. I am a fan of hers, so I would appreciate if you choose to comment on this post that you not comment on your feelings about her. Thank you very much.
And, Sarah Bolger as Mary Tudor and Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn were excellent in The Tudors.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

A Small Piece of Advice a.k.a Something I May Have Done Right

I knew that when I started writing fiction that involved history that it would be time consuming. Because of the amount of research involved I knew that I would take some time for the book to develop and turn into something substantial. And, because of personal issues I was in the position where planning and organizing was keeping me sane.
So, I made the decision that I would not try to do anything in regards to finding a publisher until I had written enough material to fill two books. Mind you, in terms of historical fiction its not uncommon for the books to be quite large so I didn't give myself any restraints to the length, but it had to be something I was comfortable and happy with.

It was something I did, as I had stated earlier, to keep myself sane during a rough patch, and now I'm looking at it thinking, this is something I may have done right. So, I say to you, dear readers, if you're writing something don't start to pitch it unless you're comfortable with the amount of material you have, because if you don't have enough you won't get to enjoy the process. Getting published is supposed to be a joyous occasion for a new writer, why not make that all a bit easier?

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Additions, Rewrites, and the Fun Part of Putting a Book Together

So, I'm working on polishing my book up for it to be presentable for others.
I think its fun, and I'm lucky enough to have found someone who's in synch with what I am trying to do so what she's suggested I do to make the book better are things that were needed but I couldn't step far enough away to see it, things that the book needed to be that much better.
An elevation of sorts.

I'm finding the process quite freeing, the chaos of my personal life falling on the back burner for my work for once. But, to take myself seriously as a writer this is something that I have to do. People who work from home have to set boundaries, thankfully I have (for the most part) supportive friends and family who respect my personal space. Its taken a lot of time to get to that point, and now that I'm in the situation where I will have a deadline and responsibilites in regards to my writing I think that will help them back off. Many people don't get it, especially people who are not artistically inclined.

Also, I know I've been hard to deal with over the years in many ways. This is all that I've wanted to do my whole life, and I have not deviated from that goal, people who don't have that kind of ambition can find it intimidating. I've spent a lot of my life not being taken seriously. And because I've had the liberty to only go after my dreams, that bothers other people. I've had people try to stomp on my dreams just solely because they felt like they couldn't go after there's. Its not my fault you're stuck, dude.

So as I sit and work on the rewrites, the additions, the polish, I'm reflecting a bit on the past and all the naysayers I've had to deal with and I can't help but be relieved that now that the time has come for it all to come together that the people who are around are the ones that truly believed in me and I can be grateful to them, and not have to worry about anything else other than putting out the best product I can. The fun part of making a book come to life, I think.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Write What You Know/Love

Write what you know is something that is thrown around A LOT when one begins to talk about writing. The question I always had was, how does the average person, with a regular 9-5, write a book about cops/spies/doctors/Julius Caesar etc. if its something they weren't there personally to experience?
The answer, I found, is that 'write what you know' is more a case of 'write what you love'. Because when you write what you love it becomes a part of you, and something that you love with your entire being you know very well. Its like a comfy sweater, for lack of a better term. But, you get my point.
And when you write what you love it feeds your soul in a way that nothing else can, and you begin to feel like that missing piece of your existence has finally (finally!) been found and you can live your life to the best of your ability. Its 5 star food for the soul.
That is part of the 'mystery' of how I came to this place. Once I started to write what I love, what I really and truly love, the whole process started to feel different and who I was as a person finally began to peek out from her hiding place. Once my world began to become more comfortable that real me started making more appearances, and I started to realize that she was quite likable. And when she was happy, and her soul was fed, everything was fantastic.
So, that is my central piece of advice for anyone who wants to start the journey of writing. Trust your instincts, and write what you love, and do it with such reckless abandon it might frighten you a little. It'll show on the page, and your readers will love you for it.

Monday, 29 August 2011

First Step on a New Journey

Hello all!
I started this blog as part of the first step in a new journey in my life. Soon my greatest dream will be coming true, and my first book will be published.
This is everything I have ever dreamed of for, quite literally, my entire life. It's all I've ever wanted. I remember being six years old and walking into a bookstore and seeing Stephen King's name on so many books, taking up so much space on the shelves (and that was the 80's, now they should just give the man his own wing), and pointing at those books and saying "I want to be him!"
I did not realize the scope of King's writing until I was much older, and what an amazing talent he was, but things were already long in the works by that point. I wanted to be that man whose name was on all the books in the bookstore. And now as my 30th birthday approaches it is all going to happen, and I am super excited.

I haven't told that many people about this yet, but of course now that its online everyone will figure it out. I don't know why I haven't told anyone - perhaps its because of the reaction I've got from the people I told. Mostly its complete shock, and I don't understand. When someone has wanted something their whole life, and you know that, and it happens why on earth are you shocked? I can't believe it, did no one think I could really do this? I've been told that its shock because it has, seemingly, been so easy. But my inner circle knows that this has been far from easy, and the last part has just been full of blessings that I will never take for granted. This was the magic I was born to make, and I am damn well going to do it to the best of my ability.

I've had the pleasure of getting to know some fantastic people in this process, researching historical fiction is an ongoing commitment. I get asked the question quite a bit how do you know you've done enough research? That's the key. You don't. You never know if you've done enough, and if you get hung up on that you'll never write a word. The best piece of advice I can give in that regard is research until you can write your story. If you never get to that point, perhaps you should rethink your approach. Because at some point it'll all fall into place, and the magic will happen.

The quote that is the name of this blog is from The Raven from Edgar Allen Poe, I had some difficulty picking a name that seemed relevant and not pretentious. Hopefully it works.

I'm going to end this first post quickly. I intend on posting about my thoughts and everything I go through on my path to publication. It won't be perfect, it probably won't be brilliant, but it'll be me.

* The other pages, about the book and the series, will be up soon!!